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New objectives on energy and on the role of the fishing industry in food security are among changes to the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) which are outlined in a consultation document.

The NMPF public consultation was twice extended due to Covid-19- related restrictions, according to Minister of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke.

The consultative report just published documents how 225 formal submissions were collated and assessed, and the background to changes which were accepted or refused.

Public consultation ran from November 12th, 2019 to April 30th, 2020.

The report “documents the process of consultation undertaken on the draft NMPF, the level of stakeholder participation that took place”, the ministers have said.

“I welcome the insightful contributions made by the public, NGOs and stakeholders in the maritime sector as part of this public consultation,” Mr Burke said.

“ The NMPF provides us, for the first time in our history, with a proper long-term framework for the effective management of marine activities and more sustainable use of our marine resources,” he said.

“I wish to thank all who contributed to the NMPF consultation process, and I also note the considerable level of complexity and detail contained within many of the submissions received,” he added.

The full NMPF consultation report is available to download below.

Published in Marine Planning
Tagged under

A “vast majority” of respondents in a public consultation on marine protected areas (MPAs) support the Government’s plans for expanding the network, according to an independent review.

Some 93 per cent of respondents also support the inclusion of existing conservation sites into the national MPA network, the review for the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has found.

The Programme for Government aims to increase MPAs from around two per cent to 30 per cent of Irish waters by 2030, and most respondents felt the current level was insufficient.

Some 91% support the “key principles for the ongoing MPA process”, the department said.

It said respondents noted information and data gaps along with deficits in education around marine protection.

The need for “meaningful, early, and timely engagement with stakeholders, particularly the fishing industry, was considered critical to the MPA expansion process”, the department says.

“Respondents stated that the role of stakeholders and the general public was central to successful implementation and management of MPAs, and that coastal and island communities and businesses need to be supported throughout the establishment and implementation of any MPA,” it said.

“Respondents called for urgent action, based on evidence, along with increased research and resourcing, in order to protect our marine life and also the benefits to the economy and society that come from having a diverse and productive marine environment,” it said.

A total of 2,311 responses to the public consultation were received by the department, it says.

The highest percentage of responses to the consultation’s online survey portal came from the environmental sector, followed by education, health and fisheries, it said.

“ A very wide range of representative bodies, organisations and enterprises also made submissions to the consultation,”it noted.

It said it had begun developing “stand-alone legislation” to enable identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.

Currently, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law, and environment protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore.

MPAs are geographically defined maritime areas with certain protections for conservation purposes. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

“Many valuable views and perspectives, covering all stakeholders and the public in general, have been highlighted through this public consultation,” Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said.

“The strong support for the MPA process, expressed through these submissions, is a positive indication that stakeholders and the wider public are keenly interested in having a clean, healthy, diverse and productive marine environment,” he said.

“I thank all of those who made a submission for their time, their insights and their substantive input. This is an urgent issue and my department is making strides in the protection of our maritime area,” he said.

Mr O'Brien noted that the Maritime Area Planning Bill, which he described as the “biggest reform of marine governance since the foundation of the State”, was enacted in December.

“We are also progressing the establishment of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Environmentalists have been critical of the priority given to maritime area planning legislation, primarily for offshore renewable, in contrast to the timeline for legislation for MPAs.

The full report on Marine Protected Area (MPA) Public Consultation Submissions can be found here

Published in Marine Planning

The State’s new maritime area consent regime has been formally kick-started by Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan.

The new regime allows the minister on an interim basis to issue maritime area consents (MACs) to renewable energy developers who meet “relevant assessment criteria”, his department says.

Developers must have a MAC to apply for permission to An Bord Pleanála.

Ryan’s department says the minister will “assess MAC applicants in key areas, including financial and technical competency”.

“This assessment of potential offshore developers will ensure that only the most viable offshore projects will have the opportunity to apply for permission from An Bord Pleanála, thus streamlining the process. The first MACs are expected to be issued in the second half of 2022,” it says.

Marking the opening of the MAC application process, Ryan said that “never has it been more vital that we use our vast offshore wind resource to create renewable energy and ensure the security of our own energy supply”.

“Today marks a tangible milestone in our journey towards 80% renewable electricity by 2030, as set out in the Climate Action Plan,” Ryan said, adding that “the door is now open for a number of developers to progress their offshore wind energy projects”.

The interim powers given to the minister last until the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) is established, and this has been promised in the first quarter of 2023 – although it had been promised by end of last year.

The interim legislation allows the Minister for the Environment and Climate to assess applications from a set of seven “qualified” offshore renewable energy (ORE) projects, known as “relevant projects”.

The seven projects are :

  • Oriel Wind Park;
  • RWE (previously Innogy Renewables), (two projects – Bray and Kish Banks);
  • Codling Wind Park (2 projects – Codling I and Codling II);
  • Fuinneamh Sceirde Teoranta (Skerd Rocks);
  • North Irish Sea Array Ltd (North Irish Sea Array).

Following an initial batch of MACs, responsibility will be handed to MARA from early 2023, the department says.

Meanwhile, delays in establishing a stakeholder liaison forum have resulted in fishing industry representatives warning that commercial fishing and offshore wind may be on a “collision course”.

Published in Power From the Sea

The Government is seeking a chair for a new seafood-offshore renewable energy working group.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has invited applications from “suitably qualified candidates”, with a deadline of March 25th for applying.

O’Brien’s department says it is “working in conjunction with colleagues from the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; and Environment, Climate and Communications respectively” to establish a working group within the context of the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF).

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue had acknowledged delays in setting up the group when he addressed the recent offshore renewable energy conference on marine skills and qualifications, hosted by Simply Blue Energy at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Ringaskiddy, Cork Harbour.

The conference heard that the fishing industry and offshore renewable energy would be on a “collision course” unless action was taken to set up the stakeholder forum.

The new working group will “facilitate discussion on matters arising from the interaction of the seafood and offshore renewable energy industries, to promote and share best practice, and to encourage liaison with other sectors in the marine environment”, the Department of Housing says.

It says the chairperson will be responsible for “leadership of the working group and ensuring its effectiveness on all aspects of its role”.

It outlines the working group’s primary objectives as being :

  • To enable and establish a framework for constructive engagement through regular scheduled and responsive communications between the seafood and offshore renewable energy sectors.
  • To develop clear and defined Guidelines for interactions between the seafood and ORE industries with regard to ORE developments within the context of the NMPF.

It says that interested parties can submit their application to [email protected]

The deadline for receipt of applications is 4 pm on Friday, March 25th 2022.

More information on the background to the Seafood –ORE working group, the objectives of the group, and the role of the chairperson can be found here

Published in Marine Planning

Ireland‘s unique opportunity to help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian oil could be hampered by a severe skills shortage for developing offshore renewable energy, industry experts have warned.

And unless the Government moves quickly on establishing a stakeholder liaison group, offshore wind and the fishing industry are on a “collision course”, a conference at the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) was told.

Ireland can be a leading wind and wave energy supplier, but it will only capture just over 20 per cent of jobs required unless the Government co-ordinates specific training, Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe said.

Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel CunniffeWind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe

Cunniffe was speaking at the event hosted by Simply Blue Energy, on the theme of “Our Offshore Renewable Energy Opportunity – Is Ireland Ready” which dealt with maritime qualifications and certification.

His organisation, which represents the wind energy industry, has urged development of specialist marine apprenticeship schemes and a skills plan for renewable energy involving schools and universities, he told the conference at the NMCI hosted by Simply Blue Energy.

This was echoed by Dr Alan Power of the Government’s expert group on future skills needs, who said that marine careers are a “significant growth area”.

To meet the Government’s five GW target for offshore wind by 2030, a range of key occupations will be required including engineers, ecologists, marine biologists, hydrologists, and people with construction and technical skills, Power said.

Marine operators and ship crew, wind turbine technicians and experienced professions in transport and logistics will also be required, he said.

Marine renewable expert Prof Tony Lewis of University College Cork recalled a similar discussion on skills shortages in oil and gas 40 years ago when the Kinsale gas field was being developed.

Prof Tony Lewis of University College CorkProf Tony Lewis of University College Cork

“We missed that opportunity then,” he said, urging a coordinated approach with an “enterprise focus” to ensure Ireland could supply the required expertise without losing out to foreign companies.

Mark de Faoite of Údarás na Gaeltachta said renewable energy jobs could also help to sustain Gaeltacht areas, but a holistic approach to skills and training was required by all Government departments and agencies.

Mark de Faoite of Údarás na GaeltachtaMark de Faoite of Údarás na Gaeltachta

However, offshore wind and the fishing industry are on a “collision course”, with fears about the impact on fishing now greater than the impact of Brexit, John Lynch, chief executive of the Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation said.

“There is no question that we do require renewable energy and it is a great opportunity,” Lynch said, but it had “got off to a bad start”.

He described how renewable energy companies came to meetings with fishers with “a presentation, a map” but with “pre-determined sites” in inshore coastal areas.

“We had no input into the position of those sites,” he said, and “co-existence would have been far easier” if there had been prior consultation.

Even if fishing was allowed near an offshore wind farm, the risk of snagging gear, accidental damage to equipment and the risk of prosecution over same would pose serious challenges and could cause insurance problems, Lynch explained.

Co Waterford vessel owner Caitlín Uí Aodha said “the hunters are being hunted off their grounds”.

“We want to be green, but we need you to understand fishing is not just a job, but a way of life, a tradition, a heritage,” Uí Aodha said, emphasising the need for seafood protein suppliers to survive.

“I am not convinced that those involved in this [renewable] industry are there to look after me..you’re there to make money,” she told renewable energy representatives at the conference.

In his opening address, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue acknowledged delays in establishing an offshore renewable energy/seafood liaison forum, and recruitment was ongoing for a chairperson.

Attracta Uí Bhroin of the Irish Environmental Network identified delays in marine spatial planning by Government as being critical.

Ireland is required to extend its network of marine protected areas, but any attempt to co-locate offshore wind farms in protected areas cannot be a “box-ticking exercise” in relation to protected of the marine environment, she said.

Published in Power From the Sea

The State’s new maritime area regulatory authority (MARA) will be established and operational from 2023, according to Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan.

He said establishing MARA is “of the highest priority for Government” when he announced consultation on key aspects of the State’s new maritime area consent (MAC) regime for offshore renewable energy.

He said MAC will be a first step in a “new and streamlined planning process”.

Developers who have been assessed for, and are subsequently awarded, a MAC can then proceed to apply for development permission (planning permission), where they will undergo environmental assessment, he said.

This follows the enactment of the Maritime Area Planning Act on December 23rd, 2021.

The Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Act provides the legal underpinning for an entirely new marine planning system, he said, which will “strike a balance, between harnessing Ireland’s huge offshore wind potential and protecting our rich and unique marine environment”.

He explained that the MAC regime “will assess the viability of proposed offshore renewable energy developers in a number of key areas, including in respect of their financial and technical competency, in advance of developers proceeding to environmental studies”.

“The Maritime Area Planning Act is a transformational piece of legislation,” he said, which “provides regulatory certainty and the legislative underpinning for Ireland to embrace its abundant offshore potential”.

“Under the Act, the creation of a new MAC as a ‘first step’ in the planning process will ensure a fair and robust assessment of potential offshore renewable energy developers,” he said.

“ This will ensure that only the most viable offshore projects will have the opportunity to apply for development permission from An Bord Pleanála. At that point, they will undergo all the necessary environmental assessments,”he said.

“As Minister for the Environment, I will have the responsibility of inviting MAC applications from an initial batch of offshore renewable energy projects,” he said.

This would “represent a significant milestone in realising our ambitious climate targets of 5GW [Giga Watt] of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030 and a long-term plan to take advantage of a potential of at least 30GW of floating wind thereafter”, he added.

“After the assessment and grant of the first batch of offshore renewable energy projects, responsibility will be handed over to MARA, “he said.

This consultation on MAC regime “presents the proposed model for the assessment of the first offshore renewable energy projects”, he said, and “outlines important information on how [it] will operate”.

“Feedback received will help finalise the MAC assessment regime,” he said, with the first such consents expected to be issued in the second half of this year (2022).

The consultation will remain open for a period of four weeks until February 16th, 2022 and can be accessed here

Published in Marine Planning

"Strategic marine activity zones" may be designated in coastal and offshore waters as part of the Government's new approach to marine planning.

Offshore wind projects will receive "preference" in marine areas zoned for this, a new draft framework published this morning by Minister of State for Housing Damien English states.

Renewable energy projects, commercial fishing, mineral extraction, aquaculture and other competing interests, including tourism, will be covered by a new single system of consent under long-promised revised legislation.

"Offshore wind projects will receive "preference" in marine areas zoned for this"

Ireland is actually one of the largest EU states if over 490,000 square kilometres of seabed off a 7,500 km coastline is taken into account, the draft framework notes.

As Afloat previously reported, Mr English has released the State’s first such framework in draft form today for a three month public consultation period.

Ireland and other EU coastal states are obliged to establish marine spatial plans by 2021 under an EU directive, and Mr English’s department has been assigned as lead in this.

The national marine planning framework aims to take a “co-ordinated” and “coherent” approach to management of “our most important resource”, it says/

The State’s “Harnessing our Ocean Wealth” strategy, has already set two economic targets – doubling the value of ocean wealth to 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030, and increasing the turnover of the ocean economy to exceed €6.4 billion by 2020.

Academics at NUI Galway’s Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit have reported that Ireland’s “ocean economy” had a turnover at €5.5 billion in 2017.

One single national marine plan will apply to Ireland’s entire maritime area, extending from mean high water mark on the coast to the 200 mile limits of the exclusive economic zone and Continental Shelf.

However, the draft framework says the Government is “committed” to preparation of regional or sub-national plans in future marine spatial policy cycles

The framework will be underpinned by the Government’s Marine Planning and Development Bill, which will replace the existing cumbersome system of foreshore leases and licenses, and will extend beyond territorial waters.

Friction between offshore renewable energy developments and fishing has already taken place in British waters, and the framework aims to plan for competing interests at a time of growing global pressure on marine resources.

Public consultation has already taken place on a baseline report, which elicited 173 responses, and a “strong consensus” emerged that a “hybrid approach” to marine spatial planning, involving zoning for specific activities or zoning certain areas was preferable to “full zoning” of all Ireland’s seas.

Adoption of the final marine planning framework is “expected” to be late 2020. Closing date for submissions on the draft is February 28th, 2020.

The department says it will “not replace or remove existing regulatory regimes or legislative requirements” governing marine sectoral activities, but public bodies will be obliged to take its objectives into account.

When the new legislation is passed, consents will be issued by two departments, depending on remit – the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director Micheál Ó Cinnéide, who is now co-chair of environmental organisation Corrib Beo, welcomed publication of the draft framework.

However, he has questioned why the State’s Marine Institute or a similar experienced body is not being established to provide a secretariat for the plan.

Mr Ó Cinnéide also warned that the plan needs to be given adequate resources, and the department needs to ensure widespread consultation at both regional and local level before final agreement.

“This plan will stand or fall on how well it works in individual coastal bays,” he said.

Regional public events on the draft marine planning framework will open on November 21st in Limerick, continuing to Westport, Co Mayo (Nov 26), Galway (December 2nd), and Tralee, Co Kerry (December 12th), with further events in Killybegs, Co Donegal, Bantry, Co Cork, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, Dublin and Wexford.

Full details are on www.marineplan.gov.ie

Published in Environment
Tagged under

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - FAQS

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are geographically defined maritime areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

MPAs can be found across a range of marine habitats, from the open ocean to coastal areas, intertidal zones, bays and estuaries. Marine protected areas are defined areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources.

The world's first MPA is said to have been the Fort Jefferson National Monument in Florida, North America, which covered 18,850 hectares of sea and 35 hectares of coastal land. This location was designated in 1935, but the main drive for MPAs came much later. The current global movement can be traced to the first World Congress on National Parks in 1962, and initiation in 1976 of a process to deliver exclusive rights to sovereign states over waters up to 200 nautical miles out then began to provide new focus

The Rio ‘Earth Summit’ on climate change in 1992 saw a global MPA area target of 10% by the 2010 deadline. When this was not met, an “Aichi target 11” was set requiring 10% coverage by 2020. There has been repeated efforts since then to tighten up MPA requirements.

Marae Moana is a multiple-use marine protected area created on July 13th 2017 by the government of the Cook islands in the south Pacific, north- east of New Zealand. The area extends across over 1.9 million square kilometres. However, In September 2019, Jacqueline Evans, a prominent marine biologist and Goldman environmental award winner who was openly critical of the government's plans for seabed mining, was replaced as director of the park by the Cook Islands prime minister’s office. The move attracted local media criticism, as Evans was responsible for developing the Marae Moana policy and the Marae Moana Act, She had worked on raising funding for the park, expanding policy and regulations and developing a plan that designates permitted areas for industrial activities.

Criteria for identifying and selecting MPAs depends on the overall objective or direction of the programme identified by the coastal state. For example, if the objective is to safeguard ecological habitats, the criteria will emphasise habitat diversity and the unique nature of the particular area.

Permanence of MPAs can vary internationally. Some are established under legislative action or under a different regulatory mechanism to exist permanently into the future. Others are intended to last only a few months or years.

Yes, Ireland has MPA cover in about 2.13 per cent of our waters. Although much of Ireland’s marine environment is regarded as in “generally good condition”, according to an expert group report for Government published in January 2021, it says that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are of “wide concern due to increasing pressures such as overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change”.

The Government has set a target of 30 per cent MPA coverage by 2030, and moves are already being made in that direction. However, environmentalists are dubious, pointing out that a previous target of ten per cent by 2020 was not met.

Conservation and sustainable management of the marine environment has been mandated by a number of international agreements and legal obligations, as an expert group report to government has pointed out. There are specific requirements for area-based protection in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the OSPAR Convention, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Yes, the Marine Strategy Framework directive (2008/56/EC) required member states to put measures in place to achieve or maintain good environmental status in their waters by 2020. Under the directive a coherent and representative network of MPAs had to be created by 2016.

Ireland was about halfway up the EU table in designating protected areas under existing habitats and bird directives in a comparison published by the European Commission in 2009. However, the Fair Seas campaign, an environmental coalition formed in 2022, points out that Ireland is “lagging behind “ even our closest neighbours, such as Scotland which has 37 per cent. The Fair Seas campaign wants at least 10 per cent of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected” by 2025, and “at least” 30 per cent by 2030.

Nearly a quarter of Britain’s territorial waters are covered by MPAs, set up to protect vital ecosystems and species. However, a conservation NGO, Oceana, said that analysis of fishing vessel tracking data published in The Guardian in October 2020 found that more than 97% of British MPAs created to safeguard ocean habitats, are being dredged and bottom trawled. 

There’s the rub. Currently, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law, and environment protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore.

Current protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited to measures taken under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives or the OSPAR Convention. This means that habitats and species that are not listed in the EU Directives, but which may be locally, nationally or internationally important, cannot currently be afforded the necessary protection

Yes. In late March 2022, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said that the Government had begun developing “stand-alone legislation” to enable identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.

Yes. Environmental groups are not happy, as they have pointed out that legislation on marine planning took precedence over legislation on MPAs, due to the push to develop offshore renewable energy.

No, but some activities may be banned or restricted. Extraction is the main activity affected as in oil and gas activities; mining; dumping; and bottom trawling

The Government’s expert group report noted that MPA designations are likely to have the greatest influence on the “capture fisheries, marine tourism and aquaculture sectors”. It said research suggests that the net impacts on fisheries could ultimately be either positive or negative and will depend on the type of fishery involved and a wide array of other factors.

The same report noted that marine tourism and recreation sector can substantially benefit from MPA designation. However, it said that the “magnitude of the benefits” will depend to a large extent on the location of the MPA sites within the network and the management measures put in place.

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